Monday, September 27, 2010

The Dickman Case: Blumenthal Breaks a Butterfly On The Wheel

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is the sort of Household Word who might sue death itself when, after a long life of litigation and writing media releases, the grim reaper finally comes for him. He surely has enough tricks up his sleeve to postpone the unfortunate incident for at least half a dozen years, perhaps more.

Ms. Pricilla Dickman’s case has been in litigation at least that long. She is both a whistle blower – the University of Connecticut’s Health Center being the institution whistled at – and the subject of Mr. Blumenthal’s attention these past few tortuous years. Mr. Blumenthal’s office defends both whistleblowers and state institutions. Sometimes when the two lock legal horns, conflicts of interest arise. If one tries to imagine a lawyer in a case involving two antagonistic parties who is charged with representing BOTH in a civil proceeding, a few difficulties will suggest themselves.

The latest turn in the 6 year old Dickman case involves an assistant attorney general who, having agreed to abide by a judgment made by the Commissioner of Worker’s Compensation that might have determined the Dickman case, told a judge trial referee that he never had the authority to settle the case.

In virtually every case Mr. Blumenthal touches, a settlement of some sort or other is arrange and the case is closed, sometimes after years of costly litigation. Blumenthal’s successor – either Republican Martha Dean or Democrat George Jepsen – very likely are hoping that the attorneys under Mr. Blumenthal’s charge are working laboriously to clear the decks of most of Mr. Blumenthal’s outstanding cases before either one of them arrives on the job to shoulder Mr. Blumenthal’s real legacy: In his last finance report, Mr. Blumenthal listed a backlog of 36,394 cases, which seems an imposing number.

Ms. Dickman – who is not one of those Big Tobacco tycoons or a greedy profit driven energy producer or a Wall Street flimflam artist one hears so much of in Mr. Blumenthal’s campaign ads for the U.S. senate – is one of them. A settlement arranged between the assistant attorney general, Ms. Dickman and other aggrieved parties could have placed Ms. Dickman on the “done” side of Mr. Blumenthal’s ledger -- had not the assistant attorney general, who consented to the compact that might have led to a settlement of Ms. Dickman’s justified complaints, not told the judge trial referee, after more than two months of participation in hammering out at a settlement agreeable to all parties, that he was not authorized to offer the settlement he had offered.

The judge expressed his dismay, and no wonder. This is not the sort of thing that judges familiar with the black letter law in settlement cases, “Audubon Parking Associates Ltd Partnership v. Barclay & Stubbs,” appreciate hearing from an assistant attorney general laboring under Mr. Blumenthal’s direction.

Judges, as a rule, are no-nonsense, busy bees, many of them made considerably busier by Mr. Blumenthal’s penchant for suing, which accounts for some of the crushing backlog of cases mentioned in the attorney general's last finance report.

Apparently, the word has been circulated among lawyers. John Wolter, a managing partner at Updike, Kelly & Spellacy and a Jepsen supporter, remarked recently in story in Connecticut Law Tribune covering an upcoming debate between Dean and Jepsen, “A lot of times you’re dealing with assistant AGs, and you think you have a matter ready for resolution, but they don’t have the authority to settle then and there.”

Several years ago, Ms. Dickman, injured on her job, filed a claim to worker’s compensation for disability and what is called “reasonable accommodation,” which means that her employer would have to make accommodations for her so that she would not exacerbate her condition. After a two week review in 2005 she was awarded a State Retirement Disability and then a Permanent Full Disability dating back to April 2005. It is a considerable understatement to say that the accommodations were not made.

Ms. Dickman entered the public spotlight as a whistleblower in 1988, when present Sen. Joe Lieberman was attorney general. She claims retaliation against her began in earnest in 2004 when she reported fraud activity in her medical billing. And, of course, it did not help that Ms. Dickman, a union steward who had assisted others in their difficulties with her superiors, publicly testified in 2008 before the Labor and Public Employee’s Committee on SB 805, a measure providing additional protection for whistleblowers by establishing a Retaliation Adjudication Board within the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

During her testimony, Ms. Dickman lamented that so few people were willing to come forward and speak in favor of SB 805. Testimony was not forthcoming because whistleblowers feared exposure to retribution and retaliation. Ms. Dickman testified, “I am certain that many here have heard of the subtle or outright abusive acts of retaliation that employees are subjected to when they come forward, report fraud or waste, especially at the state agency [where] they are employed.”

Naively, she had contacted the attorney general’s office. But, after her ordeal, she was convinced that this course led to a cul-de-sac:

“I thought that by contacting the Attorney General I would be following the proper course of action. How quickly I learned that is the wrong avenue and that there is little to no protection. In fact, a situation can be made worse by enlisting this office just by the nature of the relationship between state agencies and the duties of the Office of the Attorney General… The Attorney General’s Office represents and defends the employer. The employer is empowered by the fact that they are provided sovereign immunity and will be defended by the Attorney General. It is as though the fox is sent out to guard the chicken coop.”

Commissioned to handle whistleblower information supplied to the attorney general’s office by state employees, Ms. Dickman pointed out in her testimony, the attorney general’s office is also statutorily bound to represent state employers:

“Therefore it is virtually impossible to think that the representative from that office can and will be working to protect the employee at risk. That office can not be unbiased in its actions since it is enlisted to first protect the employer from lawsuits and the state from a loss of revenue, especially if that individual is stating that retaliatory actions have been taken against them for engaging during the process in whistleblower actions for fraud, activity of a protected class such as workers compensation claims or the filing of a CHRO complaint.”

Others have pointed out the structural problems involved when the attorney general’s office represents both whistleblowers in state agencies and the agencies that have engaged in possible unethical or illegal behavior. But walking away from settlements is particularly egregious behavior. Since virtually every legal action undertaken by the attorney general’s office ends in a legally enforced or negotiated settlement, no business or state agency can any longer rely on the word of Mr. Blumenthal’s attorneys if they are willing to abrogate settlements entered into by attorneys general, judges and aggrieved parties.

11 comments:

Henry Berry said...

What is know about Blumenthal's idiosyncratic use of the legal system is worrisome enough. What is not know and is passing under the radar because of Blumenthal's successful pampering and neutering of most of the media during his time as attorney general is alarming.

In my case, with Blumenthal's knowledge, state's attorneys took on the role of protection racket for a statewide corporate law firm after I filed a criminal complaint for theft against two of its lawyers at its Bridgeport office. After I had contacted Blumenenthal about this and received a brief note from him telling me he wasn't interested in hearing any more about it and couldn't do anything about it, I became a target of witness intimidation by state law-enforcement people; and encountered witness tampering, forgery, apparent bribery of one judge at the Bridgeport Superior Court and other crimes as I pursued civil cases against the criminal and corruption lawyers in the public and private sectors of the state legal system. An elaborate, long-running scheme to frame me was initiated with an illegal wiretap on my home phone.

As a public official, Blumenthal has replaced the rule of law by the rule of lawyers. Corporate lawyers in particular. And with certainty as I know, with criminal and corrupt lawyers and also judges in some cases. As a public official, Blumenthal sees a contest between big government and big business, with one or the other winning out temporarily at any time and sometimes an expedient alliance between the two. The only sure losers in this picture are the average citizens, mostly the middle class as we have seen lately.

Bruce Rubenstein said...

Don...well over 90% of the suits in the AG's office are non-discretionaryl.While certainly the Dickman case seems odd, I do hope that the lawyers in the AG's office are in fact pointing out conflicts of interest when they arise, so as to let potential litigants seek counsel elsewhere.

On another note,why in the world would I want to entrust Ms Dean with the AG position? She has repeatly said that Blumie "sues to much and uses the court system too much" but in fact with regard to her own person issues,( which out of a sense of propreity i wont get into specificity here) she has been a frequent litigator herself,when she could have used extra-judicial means to adjudicate the dispute,such as mediation and/or arbitration.While I do understand that Ms Dean's ideology is within the republican movement conservative tradition,and she probably is the most movement conservative of the republican constitutional candidates, it would comfort her base and potential supporters more if she practiced what she preached.

I also think that Ms Dean's attack on Blumie will not mean a thing to most voters as her opponent for the office isn't Blumie, it is George Jepsen.If she pursues attacking someone who isnt her opponent, then I dont forsee success at the end of the road.The classic strategy of an insurgent race is to go on the attack of the opponent and this she hasn't really done.

Don Pesci said...

Bruce,

I don’t imagine your sympathies would flow naturally to Dean. I hope you noticed that Wolter, whom I quoted in the piece, is a Jepsen supporter. He says that claims by assistant attorneys general that they haven’t authority to make settlements – after they’ve clearly suggested to judges and other parties that they do have such authority – occur because Blumenthal, who micro-manages everything, is unwilling to delegate authority. I suspect darker motives. They pull out this rug when it become apparent that decisions will tell against them. As Wolter suggests, this is not extraordinary behavior.

I am half persuaded that Dean probably would reform and de-politicize the office more efficiently than Jepsen. But it’s early in the campaign.

Bruce Rubenstein said...

Don...always a pleasure to chat with you...however, you know that Blumie isnt running for AG so all this stuff about the cases isnt going to be imputed to George Jepsen.Most of your response to me mentions Blumie and cases, and you yourself only mention Jepsen in the 2nd to last sentence... isnt germain to the AG race.

I then suspect that your post hasn't so much to do with Dean/Jepsen as it does McMahon/Blumie.However....the AG duties aren't similiar in nature to the Senator duties for which he aspires.I do think that the post is off the mark if your intent was to bring him down a peg as folks will easilly distinguish his AG duties from the Senatorial duties that he wishes to aspire to.Even among Democrats there is or was alot of good natured joking about Blumie having no one left to sue...about him showing up for meetings with 3 people in attendance..about not being close to a camera or he will knock you over to get in close to the camera..etc

While I conceed the viet nam gaffes have hurt him, I dont think the "over-suing" argument will and his retort to it was effective...ie...the AG office is a 9-1 profit center...over 90% of the cases in the AG's department are mandatory to sue...and there have been benefits by some of his suits..The Rasmussen poll which has Linda down by 5 is abit stale as the polling was done on 9/9/10...we shall see if her numbers improve.I think the "republican drift" from red states isnt catching on as strong here as elsewhere.This is not a state that wants to privatize medicare and/or social security or is very open to tea party entreaties.

As to Dean...you are right..ive little sympathy for her when she doesn't practice what she preaches.What I do find though admirable within your party is the very firm advocacy of the exercise of the 1st amendment...protesting and such...by the tea party folks, though I am repelled by the substance of the message..especially those that propose revolution and/or succession...though I did as a kid.

Don Pesci said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Don Pesci said...

Bruce,

I agree with most of what you say – up to a point. His ads for senator, up to this point, rely almost wholly on the job he did as attorney general; so much so that some people who watch politics less carefully than you or I might well think he IS running for attorney general. His has changed somewhat in the last couple of weeks. I’ve said plenty of times that Mr. Blumenthal would not get too much mileage from the stress he lays on his prior experience as attorney general because the two positions were apples and oranges. I’m glad you picked up on this without the bother of reading my comments. I congratulate you on your independent and creative thinking.

I’m not sure the Vietnam gaffs – some of us presume to call them lies, since it is impossible not to know that one has not served in Vietnam, and he made the “gaffs” several times – have hurt him irreparably. The Australian Broadcasting system came out last week with a stunning film on “Stolen Valor” in which Mr. Blumenthal plays a part. With the exception of one wide awake reporter at the Courant, the result was – a collective yawn from those in the media who seem unable to place this “misspeaking” in its proper setting.

I do not consider myself Mrs. Dean’s advocate. If she’s made mistakes, she will have to answer for them. I know that you are fair-minded enough to agree the same should hold true with Mr. Blumenthal.

We just experienced in Connecticut former President Bill Clinton’s endorsement of Mr. Blumenthal. Can we agree that Mr. Clinton’s private life while he was president was, for a while there, messy? It did not diminish the message he delivered in New Haven. No one said – messy life, let’s not pay attention to him.

I can’t speak for the entire Tea Party movement; and, really, who would want to speak in favor of the nuts among them? I know some Tea Party people here in Connecticut. I haven’t met any revolutionists among them, though quite a few are agitating for a return to constitutional government, sane economic policies and a healthy turn over in those who govern us. If that’s revolution, count me in.

Bruce Rubenstein said...

Don...i think Blumie's viet name utterances are more like gafes made in the heat and emotionalism of the moment as opposed to outright lies..and here is why...He made I think about 7 gaffes out of many hundreds of speeches in which he didnt make a gaffe..if really wanted to lie then he would have been more consistent and lied every time.The 7 or so gaffes appear to me and I think to the press as more gaffe then lie.I suspect that he places ..as I do..alot of valor and sympathy to those veterans...and simply got caught up in the emotionalism of the moment...No doubt it is hurting him against Linda and will continue to do so.

Blumie's more effective ads will be in relation to the job that he aspires to and not rehashing a AG career...he seems to agree and I agree with you that he is revamping his ads that way.

I am fair minded enough to realize that Blumie or any politician of the left or right should and must answer for their mistakes.And he is already paying for his..

I agree with you about Clinton...his life was messy and his behavior in the White House was atrocious.However, that was over 10 years ago and has no nexus for the purpose for which he was in new haven last Sunday.In addition people believe in the power of redemption..look at Rowland...and possibly feel Clinton has curbed his ways and redeemed himself.

I did see signs about revolution and succession in tea party events and comparisons of Obama and his policies to Lenin,Hitler,Stalin etc...and then there are the birthers...Seriously though his policies over the last 2 years are far tamer and much more conservative the FDR's were...and I would say tamer then LBJ also...it is comic and hilarious to me that some tea party types think and demonstrate that he is ushering in socialism/communism..We already have socialist mechanisms in the economy,placed into the economy and government before Obama was born. Any realist and logical person understands that we have a mixed economy and have had one for quite some time.

Anonymous said...

Blumenthal doesn't 'mis-speak', he is extremely bright using language, particularly leagalese, alwqys to his benefit.

Many vets who once thought they knew Dick, enjoyed his camaraderie, called him brother, now feel betrayed by this man who delibertately lied and used them.

Using his office and taxdollars to win settlements for the state's general fund spent on pork projects and for fun hasn't reflected in tax savings for you and me. There is much more corruption and goings-on in this state than most people want to know. Dick's duty to protect children is a means to exploit them and their parents. The horrors of innocent children illegally taken into the system for money is unconscionable and what happens to some when they are adopted out for bonuses is shocking.

For a state that enjoys the highest per capita income in the Nation and Casino cash cows, state pensions funds used as slush funds is more than malfeasance by a Party that has controlled the checkbook for decades.

The electoral process in this state is often decided by a gavel that falls for political agenda vs fair and just per the evidence.

What ails this state is more than malfeasance, it is managed by a criminal mentality perpetuated by the Top Lawyer we once called friend.

Rosey said...

Not one whistleblower case in this state has ever prevailed; not with the evidence and not with the stronger laws. Whistleblowers are criminalized, povertized and driven to the early graves because Blumenthal MUST win for his Democrat Government and his own political self interests.

Mr. Blumenthals' penchent for using his office for his own self interests is legendary because of his ability to obstruct justice and ruthless misconduct that travels far beyond bending the law to its outer limits. All the governments' resources are HIS oyster and HE uses it with expertise for illicit purposes. He is a man who knows no boundaries in pursuit of his goals. Dangerous? No more so than many other sharks that swim in the sea of Washington DC.

Give Lawyers carte blanche to the checkbook and they can justify any conduct against you and me. Power and Money and the pursuit of MORE have become Towers of Terror if you get in their way. Many victims, many deaths all absorbed in mounds of perfect paperwork produced by systems designed to protect and provide for Government and those that Rule it.

As more of the public feels the pain of their governments' abuse, the light bulb that was always glaring over elected officials' dark secrets becomes more difficult for them to turn off with their protected systems.

Will the public Forgive? Appology means changing behaviors and making restitution.

As a victim of Mr. Blumenthals, my prayer is that he can change and use his talents to restore our state and country that was created by greed and unmitigated Power afforded to a network of the few.

Sacrifices must be made and Mr. Blumenthal and his friends can choose the least harmful methods or continue past practices; victims past, present and future await their fate

Anonymous said...

Henry makes a valid point about Mr. Blumenthals' use of the media. Is this his or the media's fault? Isn't it a journalist's responsibility to check information? We have much evidence and history to show us why the Media no longer is the eyes, ears and Oversight for The People.


John Kennedy warned us and asked for our help four decades ago to keep the Press a Free body and independent of government control. ght FOR the People.

A Free Republic requires Public Oversight of its governance and the Media is The People's tool for Oversight.

We allowed politicians to sit in chairs too long and their chairs grew to in Power & Control with the growth of government and its breakdown of checks & balances for illicit purposes.

WE Sat Down and accepted Authority Ruling vs Representing us and we now have a Governance that preys upon its vulnerable citizens to exploit and extort income from taxpayers and assets from families to fund and protect itself at the expense of The People.

WE The People bent over and accepted our rights and protections to be systematically stripped away over decades ignoring red flags, then ignoring glaring indications of blatent deceptive tricks fortified by the betrayal of journalists who settled for printing propoganda hand fed by political hacks vs doing a day's ligitimate work.

Many Whistleblower's met their deaths because of journalist's disregard for the truth in exchange for a paycheck.


What ails our state and country is a permeated infection of callous disinterest in others and a breakdown of moral fiber and journalists' continue to support a government that works to Provide and Protect itself and their Leaders who RULE it by exploiting the vulnerable for profit.

As many citizens Rise to the Call for Freedom and Restoration of our Nation that once stood as a beacon of Light for All people of the world, journalists without backbone label them 'crazy'
'extremists','dangerous' as a tool to divert and divide the public they know is being manipulated for illicit purposes because that's what pays their bills....today.

Journalists can take responsbility for using their talent to sell out their country and the American way of life and wait their turn for victimization while they play the game they have come so proficient at playing.

Bruce Rubenstein said...

Don....Anonymous 12:51 Pm accusses journalists of "selling out" their country.This idea that there are elite americans selling out our country is repugnant and just wrong.These ideas can be found more in your side of the ledger, like in the JBS or some other group,some of whom are in or around the TPM or CPAC.This infestation of nutty ideas is part and parcel of why I believe the current populist/libertarian drift will not remake politics,because of people like this.Most people not in agreement with Mr/Ms Anonymous understand that there are 2 "good faith" ideas of governance,neither of which is in any way foreign or into selling out our wonderful country.The media acts or should act as a independant sifter of ideas, though I do think the average reporter tends to be on my side of the ledger.